LA MARQUE — The county’s first charter school is facing the same enrollment-based financial difficulties as the La Marque school district.

Mainland Preparatory Academy was forced to cut a dozen teachers to avoid overstaffing and overspending, following a 10-year decline in enrollment.

A total of 387 students, ranging from prekindergarten to eighth grade, are enrolled for the 2012-13 school year, down from 609 students during the 2003-04 school year, a 36 percent decrease.

The open enrollment charter school has been its own district since it opened in 1998. The school does not charge tuition. Most of its funding is from the state.

The school anticipated receiving $3.5 million in state funding for fiscal 2012; however, the decrease in enrollment meant it was eligible for only $2.9 million.

It was one of 23 districts and charters in Texas, including the La Marque school district, that were required to prepare a financial solvency plan for the Texas Education Agency.

The first step was to cut teachers from the math, foreign language, science, social studies and language arts departments, effectively saving the school $300,000 in salaries and benefits.

The next steps include eliminating music and fine arts classes for fifth through eighth grades and extracurricular activities.

Payments on $5 million of infrastructure bonds that went to fund construction of the school building in 2002 have been frozen to give the school time to implement its budget plan, Superintendent Diane Merchant said.

She said increasing revenue and enrollment numbers are the school’s highest priorities. The plan assumed a 5 percent increase in enrollment by 2015, and it added two classes to kindergarten and first grade to accommodate more students.

Mainland Preparatory students consistently rank among Galveston County schools’ highest performers on the reading sections of state assessment tests, and Merchant is counting on that reputation and increased marketing efforts to attract students.

“We are taking aggressive steps to continue on our journey to provide an exemplary program and achieve financial solvency,” Merchant said.

Contact reporter Whitney Hodgin at 409-683-5236 or whitney.hodgin@galvnews.com.

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(11) comments

Gary Miller

( Most of its funding is from the state? )
Like all state charter schools they rely on state funding without local taxes.
I wonder what other funding they get. Donations from business? Pleased and satisfied parents? People who care about quality education?
The minimum standards for Charter schools is higher than the standards for union run schools who use both state funding AND local tax funding.
Charter schools are better and cheaper because the charter law requires it.
Higher quality education at bargan prices.

Gary Miller

Loss of students is a bigger problem for State charter schools than for ISD schools.
Their only guaranteed funding is state funding that is based on enrolement.
ISD schools have state funding based on enrolement in addition to local tax funding.
ISD schools cost more because their per student finding from the state is the same as per student funding for Charter schools. Then ISD schools have local tax funding over and above state funding. The more students attending charter schools the less local taxes are needed to educate our children.

Lyra Mitchell

Aaaand there lies the crux of your true problem with the local schools. It's very clear you resent supporting your communities' young with any local funds. Why should we have any personal stake/responsibility in our school district when they can just be supported from the general fund by the state?

To purport that charters are superior by their charter designation is silly. There are good ones and bad ones. Just like everything. Here are a few things that I'm aware of concerning charters.

- The minimum requirement for a Texas charter school teacher is a high school diploma...UNBELIEVABLE! Even a substitute at public school has to have an Associate's degree.

- 32% of charters were held using an alternate accounting system
(a lesser standard)

- A large portion of the schools that are struggling financially (required to come up with emergency plans for TEA) are charters. They have less oversight, so I'm reluctant to sign over any blank checks.

Keep in mind, there is more school choice within the public school system than ever before. Schools that fail to meet federal AYP standards two years in a row are required to bus their students to a neighboring well-performing district. Many local districts have Magnet programs, Gifted and Talented programs, and open enrollment. These are good things for the community. There is room for charters in Texas, but to suggest they're superior to public school is an untrue generalization.

Island Bred

We been tellin him that for a very long time. LOL He has TEA in his ears.....[beam]

Walter Manuel

According to TEA's website:

"Texas is the 15th weakest of the nations 42 charter laws.

In 2011 there were 444 charters serving 149,348 students.

As of December 2011, 52 charter schools were closed".

Walter Manuel

Sorry, that wasn't listed on TEA's website, but rather on another site on the internet that I googled.

Gary Miller

Fewer students equals less state funding.
Chicago this weekend admitted the loss of students ( related to population decline )
has forced them to close 105 public school facilities. 54 are public school campusses, 51 are administration buildings. Together employing over 9,000 teachers and support staff.
Public employee unions are organizing street riots opposing the flood of pink slip notices needed to reduce staffing.
They have too many buildings, too many classrooms and too many teachers for the remaining students. Just like LM ISD. The unions want no reductions of buildings, teachers, support staff or classrooms. Keep the tax money flowing.
Public schools are not for educating children, they are for union paychecks.

Island Bred

You have this issue with unions I have never quite understood. If you don't want to belong to one - then don't.

Unions is what brought about the 40 hour work week, got children out of sweat shops and factories into schools to begin with and also brought many protective standards to the forefront in the mining, steel, and manufacturing industry. Don't tell me unions have no place.

I have never belonged to a union in my life but I know they have value. Your rants against unions just to rant - tells me you know less about them than I do..... LOL

Gary Miller

Marqurite.
It would be hard to know less about unions than you. If you would learn just a little you wouldn't like them either.
I've belonged to three different unions over the years and was a founding member of one union. After learning how coprrupt they are I got out.
The things you credit to unions were beginning to happen without unions.
Some of what unions did was good before federal labor laws were passed. Since then most of what unions have done has been bad.

Gary Miller

Marqurite.

I object to unions not for what they have done to/for members but what they are doing to the nation. You aplaud the good unions USED to do, The bad they do NOW is what i oppose.
Nearly every industry that has left the U.S. did it to get rid of unions, American cities and states in financial trouble are the result of union political influence.
I suspect you and I could compile a longer list of bad things unions do now than the short list of good they did then.

Mike Meador

IHOG - As a long-time educator here in Texas, we don't have the same unions for educators like we know from other states. The two "unions" as you would call them in Texas, aren't like those in places like New York or Illinois. Most pay dues to the organizations to have an attorney in case they get sued, and have liability insurance in case you get sued. You don't have to join these organizations in order to get hired.
I know unions have done some very good things; however, many education unions have done something I wouldn't want my dues to pay for.

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